A proposal by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey to hike Hudson River crossing tolls is being questioned by Govs. Chris Christie and Andrew Cuomo, but is winning praise from construction and labor representatives, who see the increased revenue boosting the economy, creating jobs, and repairing the region’s transportation infrastructure.
The bistate agency announced Friday that tolls paid by E-ZPass drivers on Port Authority crossings would increase from $8 to $12 next month, and off-peak tolls would go from $6 to $10. In 2014, both those tolls would increase another $2. Drivers who pay cash would see a hike from $8 to $15 this year, and another $2 in 2014.
PATH tickets also will increase, rising from $1.75 to $2.75.
The Utility and Transportation Contractors Association supports the toll increase and said the revenue “is necessary to keep the Port Authority’s facilities in good repair, and to carry out its job-producing capital construction program.”
Bob Briant, CEO of the UTCA, said in a statement some of new revenues will pay for raising the height of the Bayonne Bridge to bring larger ships into the port, “which will lead to further revenue for the metropolitan region, while generating additional jobs.” And he said the money will help tackle long-deferred improvement to the George Washington Bridge, Lincoln Tunnel and Port Authority Bus Terminal, in New York.
The New Jersey Building Laborers District Council, which represents nine unions and 5,000 members in New Jersey, also supports the Port Authority’s 10-year capital plan and the proposed toll increase. The council said its members work on commercial, institutional and general building construction, and view the Port Authority’s plans “as a catalyst of economic development and growth in the region.”
In a statement, José Colon, business manager for the council, said since Sept. 11, “the Port Authority has focused much more resources into keeping the public safe and secure; at the same time, the population and level of transportation activity has grown. The proposed Port Authority’s capital plan sets us in the right direction to grow and flourish in the future.”
“You’re kidding, right?”
But the governors, who have veto power over the agency, have been less supportive. In a public appearance today, Christie said his first reaction to the toll hikes was “You’re kidding, right?”
In a joint statement Friday, the two governors said, “While we understand the Port Authority leadership’s concerns about a potential downgrade to its bond rating if toll increases are not instituted, our primary concern with this proposal is its impact on our respective states’ residents and commercial users of the crossings.”
Jack Kocsis Jr., CEO of the Building Contractors Association of New Jersey
and the Associated General Contractors of New Jersey, said in a press release he supports the toll hikes.
“Not only is the Port Authority infrastructure necessary for the safe transport of our residents, but it is the foundation of our regional economy,” he said. “The construction projects that will be supported by the Port Authority’s proposal will create thousands of jobs and provide opportunities for businesses large and small.”